A look back at this year's bevy of ads from the big game - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time for us marketers to have some fun analyzing the advertisements. There are lots of articles already talking about people’s reaction to the ads – the fact that many of the ads put a damper on the celebratory mood of Super Bowl parties around the country, and that a few (foot fungus, especially) made people just plain uncomfortable (most of us are eating after all!).
I can say that at my house, we were taking to guessing what we thought they were advertising in some cases. Honestly, I can’t recall a more uninspired Super Bowl commercial lineup (not all, but in aggregate). I had hoped for and expected better. It felt to me that only some of the advertisers had invested in "Super Bowl-worthy" ads, instead running standard ads in the prime spots due to the expense of the placement itself.
All this said, I won’t delve deep into the commentary I already see posted, instead choosing to observe some of the general themes.
In Effort to Be Real, Brands Went Serious.
We all realize that brands are trying to demonstrate authenticity and truly engage with their audiences via storytelling – but I think we may have gone a little far, forgetting the context of the outlet and the mood of the audience. The Super Bowl is an annual national sporting event, a cause for gatherings and parties – a celebration! A show. People are seeking entertainment. For years the Super Bowl ads were equated with creativity, humor, and surprise. Marketers, let’s please remember context!
This year, it felt like the surprise was figuring out the brand and their angle – I’m still scratching my head at the relation between a Nissan Maxima and an absentee father. (By the way, there’s a debate online as to whether this was a positive or negative commercial – to me, if it was meant to be positive, I think they should have rethought the choice of sound track.).
Overall, I noticed fewer hashtags for commercial campaigns than the last few years. My speculation as to why resides in that fewer of the campaigns were made especially for the Super Bowl AND had less entertainment factor (versus the Public Service Announcement aka PSA feeling) and therefore less engagement. Generally, I found it an interesting observation and am curious as to how we’ll see this play out – do advertisers feel they don’t need to add them any longer? However, some of my favorite campaigns did have hashtags: #BestBuds, #Sorta, #500X, #TheBigRace.
New Push for Mobile Game Apps – Paired Up With Celebrities.
One of the few topical areas that felt to me like we were moving forward and not backward with our advertising. Mobile is a growing part of all of our lives, and gaming is certainly part of that. Pairing celebrities with enhanced graphics vividly bringing the games to life made sense to me, especially for this fun-seeking audience.
Squarespace and Wix Went Head to Head.
These ads took a few more steps toward our future, as we evolve from advertising just hosting companies to the design-your-own-website platforms - as we as a nation become ever more digitally sophisticated. I thought both were clever and well done, if not earth-shattering.
Television and Movies Made a Big Push.
This was telling to me, it was further proof of our segmented and multi-device viewing trends. It was estimated that 110 million Americans tuned in to watch the Super Bowl, so this was network TV’s opportunity to showcase their latest series to an audience that consumes content in very different ways than in the past; asynchronously, binge-watching, streaming, multi-device, and without commercials. I was surprised to see so many ads for entertainment, and yet it makes perfect sense given the consumption trends for the industry.
Lots of Car Commercials.
There are always automotive commercials in the Super Bowl, but this year it seemed like more than usual. And the mood of the auto ads were all over the place. You already know my favorites if you’re familiar with the hashtags above, Fiat and Mercedes; they were clever and well-produced. The Chevy commercial was also a standout for innovative attention-getting in tricking Super Bowl fans into thinking their TVs cable or satellite just went out – very clever way to promote their Wi-Fi enabled truck! I thought Dodge’s #DodgeWisdom was a great balance of authenticity and fun – it felt real, connected both to the brand and the audience, but wasn’t a downer the way some of the commercials were.
Nissan, I think was a big miss in execution, though I can see their good intentions directionally. The Jeep ad was trying to promote environmental responsibility, but for me just struck the wrong tone for the day (somber again). Apparently, it is sparking this years’ debate about national pride given the historically American song paired with international images – we’ll see how this plays out over the next few days.
I’m hoping that the sheer number of auto commercials is representative of stabilization in the national economy, as people begin to think of replacing those that they’ve made do with during the down turn.
…and the Super Bowl Wouldn’t Be Complete Without Some Snacks!
The Doritos ads were irreverent and fun – perfect for the Super Bowl. Doritos had run a "Crash the Super Bowl" contest to crowdsource the best ads for their placements. I love this concept – this is true fan engagement, especially leveraging social leading up to the big event! The winner won $1 million and a dream job at Universal Pictures. Mars delivered two spots for Snickers and Skittles; Snickers was great, Skittles was on-brand silliness that was just OK for me. Mars created a clever teaser campaigns leading up to the Super Bowl:
Snickers said it would release the ad early if its teaser generated "2.5 million social media engagements," which could include views, likes, comments and shares on Youtube, Facebook or Twitter.
The brand, which debuted the full spot on NBC's "Today" show on Thursday, told Ad Age that that final results are still in being tallied but the teaser had accumulated more than 2.7 million views on YouTube alone.
So despite a lackluster commercial lineup this year, I found the trends fascinating to observe.
- Brands are struggling to engage with their audiences authentically and appropriately at the same time, but some are starting to get it right.
- Social and mobile continue to push forward in their presence in our lives, and smart brands are finding ways to leverage them in their effort to engage us as consumers.
- Our world is becoming more digital – yes, we know this because this is the world we live in as marketing professionals, but hosting and Web design platforms now have a viable market across the majority of middle America firmly rooting themselves into our (national) new normal.
- Changing entertainment consumption patterns are impacting how the entertainment industry showcases and promotes new franchises.
- And hopefully, we’re starting to get on more stable economic footing across the country.
More Interested in the Game Than the Ads?
See the Super Bowl game stats that tell the story behind the story. As fantasy sports have grown from a niche pastime into a multi-billion dollar industry, sports fans have gotten even more obsessed with statistics.
IBM's Watson Analytics, a new cloud-based platform that finds patterns in data and uses that information to make predictions about the future – giving fans access to similar tools that executives of pro sports teams consult to understand, say, how many yards Marshawn Lynch averages after first contact, or in which situations Tom Brady is most likely to throw to Rob Gronkowski.
- How IBM is bringing front-office data analysis to Super Bowl fans, Business Insider
This holiday season, real-time analytics could help marketers keep up with the successes (or failures) of their campaigns, and make the necessary adjustments.
I don’t know about you, but this year flew by for me and I cannot believe that the holidays are officially upon us. That said, it is one of my absolute favorite times of the year, with the opportunity to spend time with family, enjoy the season - AND watch how brands and retailers pull out all the stops to engage with their customers with all of the latest tech trends and innovations! From TV commercials to digital initiatives and in-store experiences, I love to see how brands differentiate from one another and the way with which the strategies differ depending on their target audience.
Reading advertising and marketing publications like this one is a favorite pastime as pundits comment on the strategy and success of what is working out in the market. It’s the season where brands test like crazy, because the stakes are so high, and that gives us a window into what will be on trend for marketing in 2015 and beyond. Even better is getting right into the numbers, and now we can do it ourselves much more easily. Though I am not currently managing B2C profits and loss for the season, being a data geek, I love keeping a pulse on the success of the season as it happens. So I thought I’d share some of the exciting insights from the U.S. online shopping transactions observed this past weekend (the weekend before the Christmas shopping season "officially" begins with Black Friday) – you’ll be interested to see the data behind the early start consumers, retailers, and marketers got on the season.
IBM's real-time analytics reported these online shopping trends during the weekend before Thanksgiving:
- Online sales were up 18.7 percent over the same two-day period in 2013
- Mobile traffic accounted for 48.8 percent of all online traffic, an increase of 24.4 percent year-over-year (YoY)
- Mobile sales accounted for 26.6 percent of all online sales, an increase of 23.9 percent YoY
This early data clearly shows the continued growth of online shopping (in general) and a drastic increase in mobile traffic and sales, as many predicted. But let’s take a quick look at some highlights to understand the drivers behind these trends (full analysis available here).
- Consumers Cash-In on Online Bargains: Average order value was $112.86, a decrease of 5.4 percent over the same period in 2013.Shoppers also purchased an average of 3.2 items per order. This trend may indicate that shoppers are becoming more comfortable and digitally savvy in how they use online coupons and rebates to secure the best bargains.
- Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy: Smartphones drove 31.8 percent of total online traffic, nearly double that of tablets, which accounted for 16.5 percent of all online traffic. However, tablets are winning the shopping war. Tablet sales accounted for 17.3 percent of online sales, nearly twice as much as smartphones, which accounted for 9.2 percent of total online sales.
- The Desktop Is Not Dead: Even as mobile shopping continues to grow, many consumers chose a more traditional online experience. Desktop PC traffic represented 51.2 percent of all online traffic, and 73.4 percent of all online sales. Further, consumers spent more money on their desktops $123.29 than their mobile devices at $105.37, a difference of 17 percent.
- Facebook vs. Pinterest: As marketers continue to rely on social channels to drive brand loyalty and sales, IBM analyzed trends across two leading sites, Facebook and Pinterest. Facebook referrals drove an average of $101.83 per order while Pinterest referrals averaged $103.87 per order. However, Facebook referrals converted sales at twice the rate of Pinterest.
This real-time data will allow marketers to fully analyze the success of their holiday campaigns as it occurs. Enjoy the data and the insight – it’s our gift to you. I hope it will be helpful to you as you drive your season to success, and hope that it will allow you to plan and optimize your time during this busy time of year so that you can enjoy extra time with your friends and family.
Happy Thanksgiving and best wishes for a fruitful holiday selling season!
For free access online shopping data live as it happens throughout the season, check out the IBM ExperienceOne Benchmark Live self-service data application and/or stay tuned to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Hub for detailed analysis of the metrics for the biggest shopping days of the season.
Cover Story: Under 40 and Overly Ambitious • Best Practices: Marketing Accelerates Customer Engagement in its Drive for Loyalty • CMO Confidential: A Chat With Thomson Reuters CMO Toby Lee • NEXT: 8 Email Marketing Myths Debunked • Best Case: The Art of Loyalty Programs • Marketing Challenge: Perception Can Change a Brand's Reality • + more...
Evolving into a truly social business is a tricky task, and one that can take a while to accomplish. How does your brand stack up?
I think we, especially as marketers, can all acknowledge that whether or not companies admit it, all businesses are already social. After all, customers post comments and reviews and employees are individuals with lives they share with their friends and families - including thoughts about their employers. In fact, there is even a coined phrase "dark social" to describe referrals that aren't trackable by Web analytics (here's a great real world use case of dark social in action). But for those businesses that have knowingly picked up the gauntlet, where are we on the path to real social engagement?
New IBM research has some interesting insight into this social adoption, including how companies themselves are defining what it means to be social. Three-quarters of the respondents in our latest study believe a social business is one that uses social technologies to foster collaboration among customers, employees, and partners - and we agree. So social is about helping people work together more effectively to make better business decisions. But this transformation isn't easy and organizations can't realize all of their social aspirations at once, as evidenced by the fact that only 20 percent of executives we surveyed say their own enterprises have attained the social interaction mentioned above.
"Hypotheses and assumptions abound, so we turned to science to help us determine what's really happening. Through cluster analysis of 19 different social capabilities that executives are currently implementing or planning to implement, we discovered that companies tend to deploy certain groups of capabilities together. These five distinct clusters of capabilities - or 'social ambitions,' as we've called them - reveal the particular goals enterprises are aiming to achieve as they become more authentically social.
- Charting the Social Universe: Social Ambitions Drive Business Impact, IBM Center for Applied Insights, September 2014
It's a journey, and one that companies are tackling from different starting points based on their business needs and specific market conditions. Data showed that common (and logical) starting point for many organizations are to deploy capabilities around internal and external collaboration. Foundational social capabilities - like infusing social into basic business processes - still seems more difficult to attain, and is one of the least-deployed social ambitions.
So what are the five distinct social ambitions?
1. Drive Internal and External Collaboration
- Increase employee productivity
- Increase customer loyalty and advocacy
- Collaborative applications
- Enterprise social networks
- Social media marketing
2. Build, Educate, and Protect the Workforce
- Increase employee productivity
- Optimize workforce talent
- Security intelligence
- Workforce training
- Policy communication
3. Understand and Engage Customers
- Increase customer loyalty and advocacy
- Increase sales
- Customer analytics
- Customer support
- Social CRM
- Social analytics
4. Mine Community Expertise
- Optimize workforce talent
- Increase employee productivity
- Locating experts
- Crowdsourcing/Idea sourcing
5. Improve Business Processes
- Reduce costs
- Increase sales
- Workforce analytics
- Sales software
- Supply chain
- Business process management
- Workforce performance
Evolving into a truly social business is new and uncharted territory, so we can all learn from the pioneering companies on the forefront of this journey. To learn more about what surveyed companies tracked as success metrics, lessons we can learn from their experiences, as well as a checklist of the four key considerations of strategy, implementation, involvement, and metrics that you'll want to apply as you chart your own course for social success, I invite you to see the details about the study and access the ungated research report.
Video interview focused on "IBM Social Business for Small-Medium Size Businesses and Enterprises". In the video we discuss various business drivers and include a few of IBM's tools that can help any company looking to sell more products, increase customer retention, employee engagement, collaboration, and innovation.